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Opportunity to act on facial recognition technology may be lost in the US

An article in Wired notes that after revelations about how law enforcement agencies in the US have deployed facial recognition, “Congress seemed, for a moment, galvanised to act. Based on a Homeland Security Committee hearing… that moment appears to be fading – as hundreds of local, state, and federal law enforcement officials continue to amass and access the controversial data every day.” The author writes that some municipalities – San Francisco among them – have banned law enforcement's use of facial recognition. And more localised entities, such as the New York State Education Department, have barred it in certain circumstances. “But the longer Congress waits to act on a broader level, the more entrenched the technology becomes and the harder it will be for opponents to overcome its inertia.

That tension played out on Capitol Hill, where legislators seemed alternately wary of facial recognition's civil rights implications and enthusiastic about its benefits to law enforcement. Some representatives seemed impressed by the technology’s accuracy. But others noted that those statistics vary widely based on whether a system is assessing images that are well lit and show full faces, as well as factors like race and sex.” The mixed reaction to a panel of Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration and Secret Service officials was a stark contrast to two recent House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearings, in which lawmakers expressed deep concern about facial recognition's potential for misuse and abuse.

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  • Tuesday, 16 July 2019

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